September 4 is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most widely known and loved religious figures in history.
Francis was born to a wealthy family in Italy in the late 12th century and had a repuation for partying, but an illness and time spent as a prisoner of war caused him to re-evaluate his life. A few years later, he realized that he felt compelled to step away from his carefree, worldly life.
He returned to Assisi and began a spiritual transformation. During a vision, God said to him, “Francis, repair my house, which is falling into ruin.” At first, Francis interpreted this to mean repairing the physical church building he was in. But soon he came to realize that God meant that the Church throughout the world was in need of healing.
Francis rejected his family’s wealth and status and instead committed to a life of poverty. He wandered the country preaching peace and love for the poor, and soon gathered followers. Those followers became the Franciscan Order, which now includes women and lay people and is one of the most numerous religious communities still today.
One of the most distinct teachings from Francis was his belief that God can be found in all of nature, which he described in a work he wrote, titled “Canticle of the Sun.” He was known to have even preached and prayed with animals, and is often portrayed with a bird in his hand.
In 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose Francis as his papal name because of his special concern for the poor and the natural environment.
Get to know the patron saint of Italy, ecology, animals, and stowaways through our Spotify playlist inspired by his life and legacy.